The tangled world of good girls gone real

I’m crunching egg shells over politically correct genre landmines here. I love the romance genre. I love the powerful cultural importance beneath the sneering sentimentality attributed to it, the trope of finding THE SOUL MATE who will love you forever and ever  forsaking all others and protecting you and risking his or her  life for you and never faltering in his or her desire for you and his or her love for the children you create together and the true and sincere belief that his or her life would be dirt under a roach’s feet without you. I. LOVE. THAT.  

Which does not mean I love the stereotypical submissive girly heroine who needs protection and coos and falls over in the hero’s arms, no. I want me some strong Maureen O’Hara to John Wayne in The Quiet Man (yes, I know it has its gender role limitations). I want Kat Hepburn to Bogie in The African Queen. I want Karen Allen as Marion in the first Indiana Jones movie, being a kickass partner to Harrison Ford, before the sequels festered into shrieking arm-candy bimbos and franchise kiddie attractions.  

But . . . I’m finding myself lost in a sweet-sexy-hot-erotica-tough-talking-tea-room-Golden-Girls-navel-gazing-renovate the old house-compilation of romance and women’s fiction tropes that are grooved deeper into the soil of commercial pop fiction than tractor ruts in a Georgia garden after a long spring rainy season.


How many morning glory verandas and sulky black-sheep-sons can we describe before old Aunt Lizzy keels the fuck over and lets us get on with something more meaningful? And I don’t mean exchanging Hallmark Card sentiments for the lives of sex gymnasts, or glamour seekers, or the “I’m so messed up” New Adult bad child-men and self-destructive bad girls,  nor the pseudo-tough Doc Savage stories of Hollywood style Special Ops heroes and heroines spouting fake military speak as they perform maneuvers even a bad Michael Bay movie would consider over the top. 

I’m looking for the authentic stories that actually say something about what’s going on in the world around us. I realize genre fiction of all types is about escapism, not about Messages, but I read so much about authors in genre fiction wanting to be taken more seriously . . . look, I can only speak to the genre I know best. Romance.  Excellent authors. Excellent storytelling. But . . . if our stories don’t go deeper than the “she’s empowered for her time, she kicks butt, she makes him respect her,” trope, then they’re just so much finely crafted confetti for the parade toward obscurity. Isn’t there something more substantial to be said than that?

“Social justice story lines” are not  your grandma’s panties dressed up as thongs. They’re the difference between offering candy to readers, or offering them a meal.   

About Deborah Smith

Author, publisher, partner and V.P. of BelleBooks and Bell Bridge Books NYT bestseller A PLACE TO CALL HOME, Wall Street Journal and Kindle bestseller THE CROSSROADS CAFE, also When Venus Fell, Silk and Stone, Charming Grace, and many others.
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4 Responses to The tangled world of good girls gone real

  1. Isabelle says:

    Hurrah, hurrah!

    Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.


  2. Skye-writer says:

    You put it so well, and I couldn’t agree more. Romance was my first love, and I devoured it, but as I got older and wiser and saw more of the world and grief and reality, they began to pall. For a long time I didn’t read a single romance. Every time I picked one up, it seemed like the conflict wasn’t strong enough to last past page thirty, or the characters were so shallow there was no substance to them. What I told anyone who cared to listen was that I wanted a good LOVE STORY and that was a difference between a romance and a love story. So, I fell in love with characters like Jack Reacher instead – flawed, oddball to be sure, but with a realness to him that couldn’t be shaken. But things come in full circle eventually. I’ve returned to the romance fold and have been happy to find that there are others like me out there, and some of them are authors who took the chance to write outside the envelope and create stories I could get lost in again and characters so real that they that stick with me long after I’ve forgotten most of the plot. Deborah Smith is one of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Debbie Lee says:

    I love the way you write, I have all of your books and I go back after several years and reread them. I have read a couple of your novellas, but they seem too short and I’m usually disappointed. When are you going to write another novel????


  4. I loved all your analogies in this article and kudos to you for challenging the status quo. Saying that, when I worked in social policy and read legislation all day, I craved light romance to escape the negativity I had to deal with every day. I’m glad there is so much variety in romance and authors like yourself who keep progressing the genre.


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